On paper, Sergio Perez was a shoo-in for a slot in our high ten F1 drivers of 2023. He was one among two not named Max Verstappen to win a race and he completed second to the Dutchman on this planet championship.
And but, he is not made the reduce on ESPN’s record, which you can read in full here. It is after all fully subjective, however the truth this query is even open for debate highlights the type of 12 months Perez had. His kind was so erratic that a lot of the narrative round him was whether or not he would nonetheless be driving for Purple Bull in 2024. He will likely be, however that query will likely be lingering proper on the floor subsequent 12 months.
Was his season actually dangerous sufficient to not be thought-about high ten? As at all times, this stuff are about context. There is a key caveat within the record compiled by my colleague Laurence Edmondson earlier this month that the rankings are “primarily based on the automotive that they had at their disposal, the stage they’re at of their profession and the expectations they confronted going into the season,” so let’s break it down like that.
The automotive at his disposal
That is maybe probably the most damming a part of Perez’s 12 months. The RB19 will go down as probably the most dominant automotive in fashionable F1 historical past – beforehand one-sided seasons of Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton pale compared to what Verstappen achieved. Perez was blessed with one of many best F1 automobiles any crew has in-built latest reminiscence however completed with half the factors tally of his teammate. Whereas Purple Bull celebrated constructors’ championship success, Verstappen’s outcomes would have received it single-handedly.
You might argue Verstappen’s unimaginable kind made the RB19 look higher than it was, however the margin of a lot of his wins confirmed how a lot tempo there was to search out. Whereas Verstappen might nicely have received the identical variety of races alongside an in-form Perez, his teammate ought to have been on the rostrum most weekends. From his second and ultimate win in Baku onwards, Perez visited the rostrum simply six instances — in the identical timespan, Lando Norris had seven podiums, whereas Hamilton and Charles Leclerc had 5 every, the three of them doing so in automobiles inferior to the RB19.
For no matter motive Perez simply could not get on high of it. The Mexican driver’s issues gave the impression to be rooted in qualifying, the place poor performances typically put his RB19 out of place and compelled him to play catch up within the race. A heavy crash in qualifying on the Monaco Grand Prix, a race he received 12 months prior, summed up the season that was to comply with, leaving him with the prospect of a irritating Sunday forward.
The stage he is at in his profession
Perez is among the most skilled drivers on the grid with 257 begins — solely Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton have began extra races — and it was shocking to see his 12 months crumble so dramatically and quickly. Positive, Verstappen has turn into the final word teammate killer on the grid, with Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon each struggling to match him of their stints in the identical automotive. You can too level to how the outcomes shifted in direction of Verstappen and away from Daniel Ricciardo within the latter a part of 2018, after the Australian had confirmed his intention to drive elsewhere the next 12 months. However, as one of many grid’s longest serving drivers, Perez is at a unique level in his profession to all three of his predecessors in his seat and extra was anticipated from him consequently. Perez by no means received himself out of the downward spiral he hit from Monaco onwards. His mistake in the beginning of the Mexican Grand Prix regarded extra like an over-eager younger driver than one of many grid’s elder statesmen.
Earlier than Purple Bull, Perez made a behavior of overperforming in automobiles that have been typically troublesome to drive, studying persistence and honing his race craft with equipment which for thus lengthy didn’t give him an opportunity to win. Whereas Gasly and Albon’s poor kind instantly led to very large pinchpoints of their respective careers, they may each argue that they had been promoted sooner than Purple Bull supposed and earlier than they have been essentially prepared for the problem. Each have rightly been given a second likelihood elsewhere. On the flip facet Perez’s alternative with Purple Bull was overdue and he waited his complete profession to drive a automotive pretty much as good as he had in 2023 and, after his good begin, he squandered it.
Very like Valtteri Bottas with Hamilton, Perez anticipated (or hoped to) take the struggle to Verstappen in 2023. As a substitute, we had one of many dullest and one-sided F1 championships in historical past, which maybe colors a few of what has been written right here. Verstappen probably would have received the championship earlier than the Abu Dhabi finale however Perez had the automotive, and, importantly, has the expertise, to have at the least made the title struggle right into a spectacle of some variety.
Even earlier than his transfer to Purple Bull for 2021, Perez had made a reputation for himself as one among F1’s most gifted, when it comes to race craft and tyre administration. His kind has been up and down within the three seasons since, however in the beginning of the 12 months there was a way that Perez merely wanted to get some momentum going and accumulate outcomes — in different phrases, preserve himself within the hunt, like Nico Rosberg did efficiently in 2016 versus Hamilton.
Fortunately for Perez, one of many greatest believers in his expertise is Purple Bull, which was evidenced by how strongly they caught by him by way of the bottom moments of 2023. On his day he stays one of many higher drivers on F1’s grid, one thing he demonstrated in an outstanding, and truthful, wheel to wheel duel with Fernando Alonso through the Brazilian Grand Prix. However that struggle wasn’t at all times there — he meekly surrendered the win to Verstappen in Miami and let over-eagerness get the higher of him when a powerful consequence was on the desk at his house race in Mexico.
How did the remaining look?
We hadn’t forgotten concerning the different half of the grid — here is a rundown of the place we felt the remaining drivers sat after this season.
11. Sergio Perez – See above.
12. Pierre Gasly – A good first 12 months for Alpine capped with a podium on the Dutch Grand Prix, however discovered himself caught within the midfield with the automotive he had. Gasly’s qualifying kind in opposition to Esteban Ocon places him simply forward of his teammate.
13. Esteban Ocon – Like Gasly, Ocon’s excessive level was a podium (in Monaco) however finally he and the crew have been unable to copy among the excessive factors of earlier seasons in what was one other tumultuous 12 months behind the scenes.
14. Daniel Ricciardo – After a preferred return with AlphaTauri he was unfortunate to interrupt his hand at Zandvoort simply when he was constructing momentum. His excessive level was an outstanding seventh place end in Mexico, however he simply did not drive sufficient races to characteristic greater.
15. Liam Lawson – The Kiwi impressed as Ricciardo’s stand-in and the largest praise you possibly can pay to his five-race stint within the automotive is that he by no means regarded misplaced, even on the moist Dutch GP, the place he changed Ricciardo earlier than qualifying. He was unfortunate to not be given a full-time race seat and must be on the radar of a number of groups for 2025.
16. Nico Hulkenberg – Confirmed no indicators of rust after three years away and impressed, when he might, within the sluggish and temperamental Haas automotive. He comfortably out-qualified teammate Kevin Magnussen throughout the 12 months.
17. Valtteri Bottas – We all know what Bottas can do on a superb day however Alfa Romeo’s automotive simply wasn’t aggressive sufficient for him to indicate it, ending the 12 months with only a handful of factors to his identify.
18. Zhou Guanyu – After a patchy rookie season, Zhou didn’t kick on in his sophomore season as many would have hoped. He retained his seat for 2024 however might want to produce extra persistently to stay past that.
19. Lance Stroll – Deserves credit score for the way he got here again from a preseason coaching damage with out lacking a race, however was totally demolished by Fernando Alonso in what was a aggressive automotive for vital chunks of the 12 months. He scored zero podiums to the Spaniard’s eight and may have scored much more factors. Stroll continues to seem like probably the most evident weak spot of the crew owned by his father.
20. Kevin Magnussen – Pretty nameless for a lot of the 12 months and located himself out-performed by a teammate returning after three years out. Coming off the again of his standout 2022 marketing campaign his season was disappointing.
21. Nyck De Vries – Whether or not you agreed together with his sacking or not, in 11 races De Vries did not persuade Purple Bull he had been the best man to signal for AlphaTauri. Given how his season ended it is not possible to place him anyplace however on the rear finish of this record.
22. Logan Sargeant – Was fortunate to retain his seat for 2024 and, not like De Vries, was given a complete season and nonetheless didn’t present indicators of main enchancment. The Floridian didn’t out-qualify teammate Alex Albon a single time. Williams pointed to Sargeant’s gutsier shows later within the 12 months as a motive for maintaining him however he was additionally fortunate by the dearth of life like choices on the crew’s disposal. He’s one other below big stress to carry out subsequent 12 months.